By Aishah Binti Akmal – 7.8.19
A total of 1,010 cases of baby dumping have been recorded from 2010 to May 2019. Sixty-four percent of those babies were found too late to be saved. And majority of those that were found alive, died shortly after from complications. Babies were found abandoned in in homes, toilets, and garbage sites.
Are Dr. Wan Azizah’s recent measures too little too late? Her campaign suggests certain measures aimed to reduce and eventually stop the trend of baby dumping. There is ‘locality mapping’ and ‘strategic intervention’ in areas that have become ‘hot spots’ for baby dumping. In addition, she publicised the “Talian Kasih” hotline which gives support to pregnant women, and she set up awareness posters in male and female toilet cubicles at rest areas nationwide.
But where are the steps to address the shame put on women who get pregnant out of wedlock, the taboo of pre-marital sex, attaining contraception, and the poor-quality sex education among young Malaysians.
In Malaysia, 18,000 teenage girls get pregnant each year, the vast majority of them are unplanned pregnancies. These vulnerable, pregnant women can be persecuted for various acts including religious laws for their pregnancies. They can’t even turn to abortion since it is heavily regulated and allowed only in “life or death” cases, meaning they need to either raise the babies, risk themselves by going through illegal abortion or dump the baby.
The stigmatization and discrimination of teenage women that fall pregnant, usually not even understanding how it happened as there is little sex education in Malaysia. There is very little social acceptance of teenage pregnancy, and most of the time these situations occur in the lower socio-economic communities where parents work hard and teenage children are left unsupervised and bored, needing attention and validation. the Malay proverb that goes Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat (Let the child die but not tradition), portrays the parent’s anger when they find out that their daughter has shamed them. Rather than offer support, most families are focussed on handling the embarrassment and shame. Many young, pregnant women in Malaysia are left all alone. ousted by society, by the law, and by their families. This is the leading cause for baby dumping cases.
Dr Azizah’s campaign is a beginning the dialog around this topic, but it is not enough. The government, and society as whole must demand more in order to address the root causes of baby dumping, and to heal this sickness infecting our nation, so that no woman shall feel that this is ever a valid option.